December 07, 2023

Hello! Dan is busy with an event this morning, so I'm filling in. But fear not — he'll be back for tomorrow's newsletter, so send him all deal news!

Top of the Morning

Left to right: Brett Gibson, Jennifer Fleiss, Jen Wolf. Photo: Initialized Capital

Initialized Capital has hired Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss as its newest partner.

Why it matters: She's the first senior investment hire the firm has made since co-founder Garry Tan's stepped back to run Y Combinator a year ago.

Details: Fleiss, who was most recently a venture partner at Volition Capital, is joining the firm's growing New York office. She’ll be investing in early-stage startups in sectors like e-commerce, logistics, health tech, and artificial intelligence applications, among other areas.

  • After leaving Rent the Runway in 2017, she was CEO of Walmart's Jetblack, a personal shopping service it eventually shut down in 2020.
  • In addition to being an angel investor and startup advisor, she's also on the boards of Lanvin, Party City, and Shutterfly.

What they're saying: "I think we're in a really exciting time," says Fleiss, speaking about the current market. She rattled off a wide-ranging list of investment areas she finds interesting.

  • She notes that she co-founded Rent the Runway during a downturn (in 2009), and that the tougher fundraising conditions can be "a forcing function" for startups.

The big picture: Fleiss joined the firm as the result of a search process to hire a new senior investor to fill out its team, per managing partner Brett Gibson.

  • Initialized's criteria for its new hire: a background as a founder (or similar role) that gives the partner credibility in dispensing advice, and a track record as a good investor.

Zooming in: It may be a new chapter for Initialized Capital, with all three founders now having stepped back. Yet the firm's connection to Tan and Y Combinator remain, says Gibson, who worked at YC before joining Initialized in 2017.

  • Not only is Tan still a partner at the firm (and even attended its annual general meeting earlier this Fall), but Initialized continues its very active investment in YC companies, as it's done from the start.

Yes, but: The firm is making some changes, notably a renewed focus on seed investing.

  • While it had raised an opportunity fund in 2021, Gibson says this won't be part of its approach going forward. The firm isn't raising yet, but one source tells me the next cycle is expected for 2024.
  • And while its roots remain in the Bay Area, the pandemic showed the firm it could become more bicoastal, since general partner Jen Wolf has been based in NYC since the start.
  • "We could very easily fill a happy hour in New York or San Francisco," says Gibson.

The bottom line: The importance of firm leadership succession is not to be underestimated.

The BFD

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

SpaceX is reportedly approaching investors about a new tender offer that would value the private space exploration company at $175 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Why it's the BFD: Just this past summer, it completed a tender at a $150 billion valuation.

Details: The tender could reportedly range between $500 million and $750 million, with shares at about $95 apiece.

The bottom line: "SpaceX is on track to book revenues of about $9 billion this year across its rocket launch and Starlink businesses, Bloomberg News reported last month, with sales projected to rise to around $15 billion in 2024. The company is also discussing an initial public offering for Starlink as soon as late 2024 — a bid to capitalize on robust demand for communications via space." — Gillian Tan, Katie Roof, Edward Ludlow, Bloomberg

Venture Capital Deals

Klook Travel Technology, a Hong Kong-based travel booking company, raised $210m in funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with BPEA EQT, SMIC SG Holdings and HongShan (formerly Sequoia Capital China) participating. https://axios.link/3NfMLts

🚑 Artbio, a Norwegian biotech company, raised $90m in Series A funding led by Third Rock Ventures and an unnamed health care fund, with F-Prime Capital and Omega Funds participating. www.artbio.com

X-energy, a Rockville, Md.-based nuclear reactor developer, raised $80m in new Series C funding from its founder and Ares Management (which previously tried to take X-energy public via SPAC).

Scalable Capital, a German l digital investment company, raised €60 million in additional Series E funding at a $1.4b valuation led by Balderton Capital, with HV Capital and existing investors participating. https://axios.link/4a6Edz0

Pontera, a New York-based wealth management startup, raised $60m in funding led by Iconiq Growth, with Blumberg Capital, Collaborative Fund, Hanaco Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and The Founders Kitchen participating. www.pontera.com

MaintainX, a San Francisco-based business software startup, raised $50m in funding at a $1 billion valuation led by Bain Capital Ventures, with Bessemer Venture Partners and August Capital participating. https://axios.link/41aAegE

Sarvam AI, an Indian AI startup, raised $41m in seed and Series A funding, with Lightspeed Venture Partners leading both rounds. Peak XV Partners also led the seed round and participated in the later financing. Khosla Ventures participated in both.https://axios.link/3t5Nk2i

Liquid AI, an MIT spinout that's developing liquid neural networks, raised $37.5m in seed funding. OSS Capital and PagsGroup co-led, and were joined by Breyer Capital, Duke Capital Partners, Argean Capital Management, Latham & Watkins, Samsung Next, Capgemini & ISAI, and angels like Tom Preston Werner and Naval Ravikant. https://axios.link/46LYc2Q

Igloo, a Singapore-based insurtech, raised $36m. Eurazeo led, and was joined by Openspace and La Maison. https://axios.link/3NBCJ6n

Center, a Bellevue, Wash.-based expense and travel software maker, raised $30m in Series C funding led by Top Tier Capital Partners, with Durable Capital Partners also participating. https://axios.link/3uLUd9x

ON (fka GameOn Technology), an SF-based AI chatbot for brands and enterprises, raised $25m in Series C funding from Equiam, B3 Capital, Commonwealth Financial Network and Mirae Asset Venture Investment. www.onplatform.com

Babylon, a Bitcoin staking protocol, raised $18m. Polychain Capital and Hack VC co-led, and were joined by Framework Ventures, Polygon Ventures, Castle Island Ventures, OKX Ventures, Finality Capital, Breyer Capital and Symbolic Capital. www.babylonchain.io

Qortex, a New York-based video analytics platform, raised $10m in seed funding. GFT Ventures led, and was joined by Silicon Road Ventures. https://axios.link/46IWPSQ

🚀 OurSky, a Leesburg, Va.-based software developer platform for space data, raised $9.5m in seed funding. Upfront Ventures led, and was joined by Oceans Ventures, Venrex Investment Management, Marlinspike Partners and Embedded Ventures. https://axios.link/46GfjmU

Hyme Energy, a Danish energy storage startup, raised nearly €8m from Heartland, Nordic Makers, and North-East Venture. https://axios.link/3New8yo

Sona, a Los Angeles-based web3 music startup, raised $6.9m in funding led by Polychain Capital, with Haun Ventures and Rogue Capital also participating. https://axios.link/3uO6bPN

Mulberri, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based business insurance startup, raised $6.75m in Series A funding led by Eos Venture Partners, with Hanover Technology Management, MS&AD Ventures, and Altamont Capital Partners participating. https://axios.link/3TfdQ3Q

🚑 InpharmD, an Atlanta-based drug information startup, raised $6.1m in seed funding led by 645 Ventures, with Atlanta Ventures, Y Combinator, Qlarant Capital and SF ELC also participating. https://axios.link/3RGsIY1

Curvance, a DeFi platform for lending and borrowing, raised $3.6m in seed funding from Offchain Labs and Wormhole. https://axios.link/3TaS4hu

Meatiply, a Singaporean cultivated meat developer, raised US$3.8m in seed funding. AgFunder and Wavemaker Partners co-led, and were joined by Seeds Capital. https://axios.link/481W9sL

Solvento, a fintech company serving Latin America's trucking sector, raised $3.5m in seed extension funding. Quona Capital led, and was joined by Dynamo Ventures, Ironspring Ventures, Proeza Ventures, and Zendra VC. It also secured a $50m debt facility from Lendable. https://axios.link/46LGSek

Virtuo, a Calgary-based homeownership concierge platform, raised C$3.5m in seed funding co-led by ATB Private Equity and TELUS Ventures. www.virtuo.com

Pimento, a French generative AI startup, raised €3m in seed funding led by Partech, with Cygni, Julien Chaumond, Stanislas Polu, Thibaud Elzière, Jean-Charles Samuelian, Igor Manceau, Jonathan Widawski, Alessandro Sabatelli, and Nicolas Steegmann also participating. https://axios.link/4a6Ydl3

Bujeti, a Nigerian corporate card startup, raised $2m in seed funding led by Y Combinator, with Entrée Capital, Voltron Capital, Unpopular VC, Kima Ventures, Arash Ferdowsi, Alan Rutledge, Tristan Walker, and Abdul Hassan participating. https://axios.link/3RcaMCT

Tappi, a Kenyan e-commerce platform for SMBs, raised $1.5m in pre-seed funding. Mercy Corps Ventures and Chui Ventures co-led, and were joined by Digital Currency Group, SOSV, Resilience17, growX ventures, Orbit Startups and Reflect Ventures. https://axios.link/46QTJMl

Respeecher, a Ukrainian voice cloning startup, raised $1m in seed funding from fVC Poland, Bad Ideas, ICU, SID Venture Partners, and Gary
Vaynerchuk. https://axios.link/3uJxKtr

Private Equity Deals

Aldine Capital Partners invested in Smart Vent Holdings, a Mount Royal, N.J.-based provider of flood mitigation and prevention products for residential, commercial and municipal markets. www.smartvent.com

Constellation Wealth Capital invested in AlphaCore Wealth Advisory, a La Jolla, Calif.-based RIA focused on alt assets. https://axios.link/46Epb0o

Ecopol, backed by SK Capital Partners, invested in JRF Technology, a Tampa-based developer of water-soluble polymer and edible film tech. www.jrftechnology.com

🎵 Enrique Iglesias sold his music catalog to Influence Media Partners, a music rights firm backed by BlackRock and Warner Music Group. https://axios.link/3RdGlMR

Grand Fitness Partners, a Toms River, N.J.-based portfolio company of HGGC, acquired eight Planet Fitness locations in California. www.grandfitness.com

H.I.G. Capital completed the sale of Just Home Healthcare Services, a Fair Lawn, N.J.-based provider of medically focused adult day health and in‐home personal care services. Honor Health Network, backed by Webster Equity Partners, acquired the Personal Home Care and Adult Day Health business, while RHA Health Services, backed by Blue Wolf Capital, acquired the Group Home and Independent Living Program business. www.jhcare.org

Nearmap, an Australian portfolio company of Thoma Bravo, agreed to acquire Betterview, an SF-based property intelligence and risk management startup that had raised $34m in VC funding from firms like Nationwide Ventures, Guidewire Software, and ManchesterStory, Runway Venture Partners and Alumni Ventures. www.betterview.com

Sportsology Capital Partners and Ares Management are in exclusive talks to buy Janice Simpson's 10% stake in the Texas Rangers, valuing the team at $2 billion, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/41fuqmi

Velocity Capital Management acquired Parella Motorsports Holdings, a Plano, Texas-based operator of grassroots motorsports live events racing classifications in the U.S. and Canada. www.speedtour.net

Zilliant, an Austin, Texas-based portfolio company of Madison Dearborn Partners, acquired In Mind Cloud, a German manufacturing sales platform that had raised $18m in VC funding from firms like BCE Capita and Digital+ Partners. www.zilliant.com

Public Offerings

⛽️ Zeekr Intelligent Technology, a Chinese EV company part of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, is considering a US public listing in February, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/487ML6K

SPAC Stuff

Blue Room Acquisition, a blank check company led by MKM Bolsa Privada executives targeting the financial sector, filed to raise up to $200m in an IPO. https://axios.link/3t5Icey

FG Merger III, a blank check company targeting the financial services industry in North America, filed to raise up to $150m in an IPO. https://axios.link/480PMpm

TechyBird Acquisition, a blank check company targeting the tech and biotech sectors, filed to raise up to $60m in an IPO. https://axios.link/47LCw8C

More M&A

TV18 Broadcast of India will merge with Network18 Media & Investments in a $1.2b deal. https://axios.link/4a900G5

🚑 AbbVie agreed to acquired Cerevel Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based drug maker, in a deal valued at $8.7b, paying $45 a share in cash, a 22% premium to Cerevel's closing price on Wednesday. https://axios.link/47Mz4KX

⛽️ Woodside Energy and Santos, two Australian energy companies, are discussing a merger that could result in a new business worth around $52 billion. https://axios.link/483DIUz

Fundraising

⛽️ Congruent Ventures, a San Francisco-based climate tech-focused venture firm, confirmed it's raised $275m for its third flagship fund, crossing $1 billion in AUM. https://axios.link/4aaNLJd

Morgan Stanley raised $1.2b across growth and credit funds to invest in private companies. https://axios.link/3RwXUbR

Final Numbers

Data: Dealroom.co; Chart: Axios Visuals

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